South Effingham Elementary students will start school not only on a renovated campus, but also with a new principal.
Former SEES teacher Anna Barton is returning to the school as its principal. She succeeds Susan Hartzog, who accepted a newly-created position in the school system’s central office.
While at South Elementary, Barton was honored as the Effingham County Teacher of the Year for 2011-12. She was Springfield Elementary School’s instructional supervisor for the past two years.
“We felt like her relationship there at South, and then also her experience as being instructional supervisor, paired with the great teaching background, set her apart,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “We felt like she was the right person for the job.”
Shearouse said school officials interviewed “eight or nine” candidates, all of whom currently hold leadership positions in the Effingham County School System. No outside candidates were interviewed.
“It was a very difficult decision because we had so many qualified applicants,” Shearouse said.
South Effingham Elementary has been undergoing a $3.5 million renovation this summer. The work inside the building is on schedule and “the classrooms are ready to roll,” Shearouse said.
Summer rains have slowed the pace on the school’s new driveway and new parking lot, though.
“The paving is going to be down to the wire,” Shearouse said. “Even if that isn’t totally finished, we can get through that.”
Hartzog’s new role
Hartzog admits it wasn't an easy decision to leave the only school where she had ever worked as an educator.
In fact, she said “the thought had never crossed (her) mind” to apply for a job such as the school system’s new assistant director of human resources position.
“The more I heard, however, the more intrigued I became with the idea of supporting our wonderful school system in this way and attempting the challenges this position would afford,” Hartzog said. “After much thought and prayer, I did decide to accept the new position.”
Hartzog’s main role, according to Shearouse, will be to coordinate and oversee Effingham’s participation in Georgia’s new system for evaluating teachers and principals. Students’ standardized test scores will be a large part of teacher evaluations.
Observations will be another key component of the evaluations. Teachers and principals deemed ineffective or in need of improvement in two years within any five-year period could lose their teaching certificate.
“(The new system) is a big jump for us,” Shearouse said. “Not saying that principals and administrators didn’t already, but they’ll be spending a lot of time in the classrooms throughout the school with the number of walk-throughs and number of evaluations they’ll have to do. So we just have to make sure we’re doing a good job.”
Meanwhile, Hartzog is confident she is leaving South Effingham Elementary in good hands.
“Mrs. Anna Barton knows and loves our school just as I do,” Hartzog said. “I have no doubts that South Effingham Elementary will continue to thrive with a bright future ahead with Mrs. Barton at the helm.”
Hartzog’s salary as the assistant director of human resources will be comparable to that of a school principal with her years of experience, Shearouse said.
He defended the creation of a new central office position at a time when the board of education has approved using $2 million from its general operations account to balance its budget for the 2015 fiscal year.
Shearouse pointed out the budget also includes a 3 percent pay increase for all school system employees, no furlough days, money for additional employees and funds for supplies for every classroom in the system.
“We certainly wanted to make sure that we did look at classrooms first, which I believe we did,” Shearouse said. “So there were steps that we took before adding this.”
Shearouse reiterated that Georgia school systems are starting “a new day” in evaluating their employees. Effingham school officials saw the need to devote someone to managing the new system.
“It is a change statewide, but certainly in Effingham, from what we’ve done in the past, and we just need some help,” he said. “This deals with what matters most — the instruction that occurs in the classroom — so there’s a direct link there with that position.”